Dear Board Members and Administration,

My children are young, and therefore not yet students at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School (SYVUHS) as myself, their uncle, grandparents and great grandparents were. Our son and daughter are in the sixth generation to call this valley home. Thanks to our time here, we’ve had the opportunity to watch and be a part of the environment at SYVUHS through many years and decades and through multiple administrations. The events of the last few weeks aren’t surprising to me considering the consistently mediocre standards of SYVUHS and its systemic lack of commitment to its students. I, like so many, am left wondering “why?”

WHY is a teacher allowed to deliver an angry, judgmental, political diatribe to his students?

WHY is the student who recorded it (then raised the red flag) punished and threatened rather than being thanked as a whistleblower?

WHY did this valley elect a largely ineffectual board that leads with a lack of backbone and an overabundance of ego and personal bias?

WHY are the students not the top priority?

WHY defend a teacher clearly in the wrong?

WHY crucify students and board members for exposing that wrong?

WHY not do better? 

Mr. Mullin delivered an inappropriate, politically charged lecture from his virtual pulpit to a class of students forced to sit through his Zoom lecture. If this were the “real” world of corporate America, Mr. Mullin would have been (deservedly) fired for his behavior. Of course, he has the advantage of being in the make-believe world of academia where unions and biased board members jump to his defense to celebrate his wrongs and demonize those who exposed him.

I was a member of the SYVUHS class of 2000 and that afforded me a great privilege. I had the opportunity (for which I remain very grateful) to have the late, great Iain McPherson as my teacher of history, the same class that Mr. Mullin now presides over. McPherson, a colorful Scotsman and real educator, stood up on day one and promised us two things: A. we’d never know his political affiliation, he’d take both sides and argue them passionately, and B. he expected prepared, fiery, educated, respectful and thought-provoking debate from each of us. His was one of the only classes I took at SYVUHS that I look back on and consider worthwhile in the least. He taught us how to think, not told us what to think. Big difference.

One earned and gave respect, the other has preached and whined his way through his career with a Napoleonic approach. Iain McPherson was lost too soon, of course, and while he’s not here to chime in, my comparison is to illustrate the difference between a real educator and someone simply in the teaching profession.

A teacher’s political views, whether liberal or conservative, have no place in the classroom. Full stop. The student who recorded Mr. Mullin’s diatribe should be applauded as a whistleblower, as should the board member who elevated the issue. Mr. Mullin should be immediately removed from the classroom.

SYVUHS: Do better. Hire teachers that educate, not preach garbage. Serve with backbone and, above all else remember you’re here for the students, not to play a political game with our children and pander to teachers who have no business in the classroom. Some are good, of course, but many that roam your halls are a large part of a growing societal problem.

SYVUHS is a “Distinguished School?” I beg to differ. Meeting the criteria for that classification must be akin to shooting fish in a barrel.

Jessie (Condit) Bengoa

Unimpressed former student, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Class of 2000